One thousand eight hundred and ninety-three days have come and gone since Atlanta United and Chattanooga FC last met. The Five Stripes' first-ever game as a team came against Chattanooga in February 2017, with the good guys winning 4-0 off goals from Hector Villalba, Yamil Asad, Josef Martinez, and Andrew Carleton. A lot has happened in Five Stripes’ land since that historical victory, but once again these two teams are on a collision course. Atlanta begins its US Open Cup defense (champions for three years running) in the third round against Chattanooga this Wednesday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
A repeat of 2017’s scoreline sure would feel nice for a goal-starved Atlanta attack. United has been shutout for two games running and left a handful of goals on the table in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati thanks to wayward finishing. Failing to score at home against one of the worst defenses in the league is bad enough, but Atlanta should be able to put up at least a couple of strikes against Chattanooga.
Chattanooga currently plies its trade in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), the third tier of American soccer. It beat USL side Memphis 901 FC by a score of 3-1 in the previous Open Cup round, so Chattanooga is no stranger to taking down teams from higher leagues. It has struggled in NISA, however, where it sits 4th of 5th in Group A on two points with zero wins from its first three games.
Predicted Starting XIs
Heavy squad rotation seems inevitable considering the massive talent gap between Atlanta and Chattanooga, along with a visit to Inter Miami pending on Sunday. Newcomers Thiago Almada and Ronaldo Cisneros could both get the start to build chemistry and momentum in the final third. A Santiago Sosa-Franco Ibarra pivot seems like Atlanta’s ideal midfield until Hyndman and Rossetto come back, so they could get the run-out against Chattanooga as well. Other than that, Gonzalo Pineda is likely to play the back-ups.
Prediction: Atlanta United 3-1 Chattanooga FC
Cisneros will open his Atlanta account with a brace before Jake Mulraney adds a late third, but Atlanta’s second-string defense won’t be good enough to keep the shutout.